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Keywords:

  • bottlenose dolphin;
  • Tursiops truncatus;
  • ecology;
  • social organization;
  • Mediterranean Sea;
  • Adriatic Sea

Abstract

A bottlenose dolphin community was studied from small inflatable craft from 1987 to 1994 in a relatively large area (about 800 km2) east of the islands of Loˇsinj and Cres, northern Adriatic Sea. A total of 106 individuals were photoidentified based on natural permanent marks on their dorsal fins. Most of the dolphins were resighted on a regular basis, indicating a high level of year-round site fidelity, although their range was evidently greater than the chosen study area. Dolphin density was highly variable and considerably lower than for most well-known bottlenose dolphin communities. Groups averaged seven individuals, with a mode of two. Groups entirely composed of adults were the smallest, groups with calves the largest. Group fluidity was high, seasonal and yearly changes in mean group size being also considerable. Summer was the peak calving season, with a striking variation in the number of births on alternate years. Poor evidence of shark predation was found. The social organization of this dolphin community seemed to be highly flexible, possibly as an adaptation to cope with environmental changes as well as with a limited and variable availability of prey.